Psychological Stress

Stress is part and parcel of life, without it life would be too boring and un-interesting and in deed there is good evidence to suggest that we need a degree of stress to grow and evolve. But why does stress get such bad press and what exactly do we mean by psychological stress?


Stress = Unmet Needs


In my own work I have found it even more useful to think of stress as referring to the tension and emotional dis-ease that can be felt in the body when an emotional and/or physical need isn’t being met. Stress is therefore an invitation to stop, feel what you are feeling and then take action to identify what your unmet emotional or physical need is. Remember our emotions are related to what is going on in our mind, as well as our body, so it’s important to think laterally as to causes. For example you might be experiencing emotional dis-ease because your blood sugar has dropped to low, or because you are sleep deprived or because you need some rest. At another time you may feel experience stress because you haven’t spoken your truth, or maybe you have a tendency to perfectionism and have set yourself an impossible deadline. The following is a list of some of the main physical and psychological contributors to psychological stress.


Psychological Contributors                                                             Physical Contributors                        

Identification with negative thoughts                                              Poor Diet

Fighting/Resisting Reality                                                                  Excessive Sugar Consumption

Resisting impulse to grow and spiritually evolve                           Sleep Deprivation

Seeking fulfilment in the outside world                                            Excess alcohol, caffeine

Not respectfully speaking your truth                                               Genetic inheritance / vulnerability

Not meeting your emotional needs                                                   Lack of rest / relaxation

Self-limiting beliefs                                                                              Too little / too much exercise

Addictions, Anxiety &/or Trauma                                                    Spine misalignment

Co-dependency / Counter-dependency                                           Medications

Emotional Suppression / Repression                                                Neurotransmitter Imbalances

Suppressing creativity                                                                        Nutritional Imbalances

Low Self-Acceptance                                                                          Dysglycemia

Tendency to self-criticism +/- comparing                                        Hormone Imbalance

Tendency to perfectionism +/- control                                             Inflammation        

Not being present, in the here-and-now                                          Allergies & Food Intolerances

Black and white, all-or-nothing style of thinking                            Toxicity

Feeling isolated or unsupported                                                       Lack of sunshine

Low emotional resilience (ability to adapt to situation)

Lacking certain emotional management skills

Lack of nature connection


What are the signs and symptoms of stress?


The prerequisite to stress management is stress awareness and being able to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress. When we are used to being stressed and tense it can actually be quite hard to be aware of our stress signs and symptoms, for that reason it’s also worth asking a close friend or partner as what they notice when they see you are stressed.


Effects of stress on your body

Headache, pounding heart, shortness of breath, muscle aches, back pain, clenched jaws, tooth grinding, stomach upsets, increased sweating, tiredness, sleep problems, weight gain or loss, sex problems, skin breakouts


Effects of stress on your thoughts and feelings

Anxiety, restlessness, worrying, irritability, depression, sadness, anger, mood swings, job dissatisfaction, burnout, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, seeing only the negatives


Effects of stress on your behaviour

Overeating, undereating, angry outbursts, drug abuse, excessive drinking, increased smoking, social withdrawal, relationship conflicts, decreased productivity, blaming others


Effects on your health

Chronic stress is a known contributor to: depression, heart disease, poor immune health, increased deposition of fat around the abdomen, infertility, poor concentration and memory and raised cholesterol and triglycerides.


Any of these may indicate that you would benefit from take action to manage your stress


Tips for Reducing Stress


  • A useful and effective approach to use once you become aware of stress (emotional dis-ease) is to immediately turn your attention to your heart area and start using 4/7 breathing, in which you breathe into the count of 4 and out to the count of 7. This is the tool I mentioned in module one. Do this for a couple of seconds, then feel your emotion fully (see EmoTrance) and ask yourself what do I need in order to bring my bodymind into balance? In my experience its generally relates to one of the following four 1) the need to speak your truth 2) the need to express / process your emotion 3) the need to eat, sleep or rest or 4) the need to make a decision or take positive practical action
  • If you experience ongoing or recurring patterns of stress, such as anxiety, depression, or anger, stress reduction approaches will be limited in their effectiveness to help. What needs to happen in my experience is that the underlying issues such as trauma, addictions, co-dependency and counter-dependency, low self-acceptance are dealt with
  • Listen to relaxing music. For example if you emotionally overreact with anger to a fairly harmless comment by your partner, I would recommend that you deal with the underlying causes of anger and in addition to you should consider using a variety of approaches to reprogramming your response to perceived criticism from anger to calm, or whatever is more appropriate. This reprogramming can be done with instant presence (module two) hypnotherapy, self-hypnosis, and two approaches called Heart-Lock In and Freeze Frame from the HeartMath Institute.
  • Use a stress reduction tool each day and as and when necessary. Here are some suggestions: listening to relaxing music (see Resources for recommendations), Qi Gong (I highly recommend Spring Forest Qi Gong –, Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, prayer, walking in nature, taking a hot bath, using aromatherapy oils or Bach flower remedies, especially rescue remedy and massage. Use whatever works for you.


Exercise: Core Stress Release


Stress and emotional tension are held within the body. Core Stress Release is an easy to learn series of exercises which increase emotional body awareness and body acceptance, whilst simultaneously releasing the deep muscle contractions and tension held in the emotional and physical body in response to stress and trauma. This is one of the most important tools that I use with my clients who have anxiety, depression, emotionally-induced pain and/or PTSD. When used daily it’s also a great way of discharging the build up or stress and tension in the body.


To really benefit from it and to get used to it I recommend that you use it for ten minutes each day for one to two weeks, and then as and when needed basis thereafter. Many clients will continue to use it every day


  • Make sure you will not be disturbed for the next ten minutes
  • Stand against the wall, so that your back is supported
  • Now bend your knees and move both feet out in front of you. Make sure your back is still supported by the wall and that you are still fairly comfortable
  • If it puts too much strain on your knees, move your feet closer to the wall and move your bottom up the wall, this will relieve the pressure
  • Close your eyes and set an intention, say silently ‘I allow my body to release stagnant energy from my body’
  • Now gently start bouncing up and down on your legs
  • After 20 seconds or so, stop making the bouncing it happen and allow your body to continue with the bouncing / shaking (which it will do)
  • The key is to allowing the shaking to occur, just focus on your breathing – take deep breaths in and out. Become like a rag doll.
  • Now allow the shaking to move up from your legs/thighs, into your pelvis, and on up into the rest of your body.
  • Shake your arms and hands gently, then allow the bodies natural shaking to take over
  • If you feel panicked or are worried about being ‘out of control’ just return your attention to taking deep breaths, this should settle
  • When your legs start to get tired, stand up straighter. Some people at this stage will stand away from the wall and allow the shaking to continue
  • After 5 or 10 minutes, gradually and consciously reduce the shaking
  • Now stretch your muscles


You might feel very energised afterwards or, and this is more frequently the case, particularly for the first few sessions you might feel tired. If the latter is so, take some time to rest. Occasionally it can bring up strong emotions, during and afterwards. If they occur whilst using it, just continue and allow your body to release them, if they come up afterwards I recommend using EmoTrance. If traumatic memories come up (this happens rarely) I would encourage you to seek the help of someone who is experienced with working with trauma.


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